How is it that week eight came along in the blink of an eye? How did it become the end of February so fast? And to add to the surreal feeling of time marching along faster than I realize, it seems like Spring! As I gleefully started my descent down the trail today, I ran into a gentleman and we exchanged smiles and comments about the lovely weather. I mentioned that I wasn't sure how to take this early warmth and snow melt... should I mentally prepare for that illusive big storm that hasn't yet come, or should I start dreaming about planting my garden? His advice: "Just enjoy the day!"
And what simple and brilliant advice it was: "Just enjoy the day." Yes! Even better, the moment... and so I did! As I continued downward I came to a stream. That stream had been just a trickle last week, but this today it was a full on little stream, and so inviting. I stopped to explore all the ice formations, hidden pools and mini-waterfalls. Delightful. So delightful, in fact, I decided to abandon the trail and follow the stream! It goes down, and I need to go down - how hard could this be? And what better time for bush wacking? Tics are still asleep, hardly any snow, pleasant weather, I can't really get lost... Perfect! This might not seem like the most wild of adventures, but it felt fresh, and spur of the moment, and made me feel light and spontaneous.
I recently started a 6 week workshop in which myself and 40 or so other women are all exploring various aspects of ourselves and how to truly create and live a life we love. This week's exercises were about choice, and how powerful it is to own my shit and the choices I've made to be where I am today. And not only that, but also to become fully aware that I have the choice to move forward in a direction that will fill me up with love, joy, happiness, contentment and peace, and those choices are made moment to moment, thought to thought, breath to breath.
When I chose to follow that creek down the hill today, I chose a new path, I chose to follow my intuition and explore a new way, and I chose to feel free and bold and confidant. When I chose to write this blog I chose to take a risk and try something outside my comfort zone, I chose to practice writing more, and to commit to being in nature at least once a week for a year. When I chose to move to Vermont with my husband and son, we chose to follow our noses and intuition to a place that just felt right. (Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of pro/con lists!) I'm learning to choose out of love instead of fear and, I gotta tell ya, the more I do it, the more it feels like the possibilities are endless. Yes, I probably still have post-hike endorphins running through my blood, but isn't that point? It may not feel like this every in moment, (or maybe it could?) but I'm just happy it feels this way right now. So yes, I will "enjoy the day!"
Today was one of those magical days when I had enough time to NOT rush up and down the mountain. Yesterday, my husband, son and I all tried to hike up together but the ice was too much so we turned back. But today my super rad hubby gave me this Saturday morning to go back up, on a weekend which is usually family time, and try again. The temps had warmed to the mid-40s, the ice was giving way to puddles, and signs of life in a sleepy but thriving forest were everywhere. I savored the weekendy-ness and lavished in the little things: the lichen persevering in winter with its soft green hues, the brighter green moss seeming almost loud next to its contemporaries of browns and greys. I think my favorite site was the way the ice was melting, and the interesting shapes that were created as a result. I loved one spot in particular where it seemed as though a leaf had melted the ice and it lay quietly in the newly formed puddle below. So small, and so lovely.
I needed a morning like this. As soon as I woke from dreaming around 6:30 AM when my little four year-old crawled into bed with us, my brain started churning. Chatter, chatter, chatter... Gotta do this, why haven't I done that, etc. After an hour of unsuccessfully trying to go back to sleep, I got up to meditate. Which helped. Though it seems in my efforts to go from stay-at-home momming to a career that I love, I seem to have bitten off a little more than I can chew. Or at least chew all at the same time anyway. I'm finishing my aromatherapy certification. I'm also getting certified to be a therapeutic musician. I'm beginning to develop an Arts in Education program. I'm teaching voice lessons. Oh yeah, and raising a child and taking care of house and family. No wonder my brain won't shut up! I'm getting anxious all over again just thinking about it all. So needless to say, this morning's hike was like a Balm in Gillead.
Sometimes I feel discouraged and think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.
There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul.
- African American Spiritual
I'm not a religious woman, but I do consider myself to be deeply spiritual, and I love a good song for the soul. Certain aspects of life touch me as religion might touch others, however, such as music, nature, children. Today the mountain healed my anxious, over stimulated, over-achieving self, and reminded me not to rush my dreams. All in due time. The universe provides answers, wisdom and support when called upon. Today I called, and she answered, and I'm ever so grateful.
One of the beautiful things about walking the same trail over and over is that each time you notice more and more about your surroundings. This week, I noticed some cairns, you know – those rocks that have been stacked on top of each other to mark a trail. At first I thought, oh look… someone made some cairns since last week’s hike! But then I thought, hmmm, maybe they’ve actually been here all along and I’m just noticing them now. (If you know which is true, let me know!)
This got me thinking about why/when/how we notice things. What is obvious to some, is not always apparent to others. And some people are simply more observant than others, like my son, who I consider a master observer. At 4, he can sit and watch all day. ALL DAY. What he’s seeing and soaking up - who can really say, but he is an active watcher. For a while this worried me a little as I feared his caution might mean something was amiss or that he was unhappy. But after much inquiry into the matter, I realized that he really enjoys watching and when he’s ready, he engages quite healthfully.
I, on the other hand, am more inclined to dive right in and process as I go. I tend to jump into things with a bit of over-confidence and then rear up when I notice the road blocks, missteps or challenges. Example – when we first moved into our new home I painted with gusto for 2 weeks which resulted in tendinitis in my right wrist. Its taken a few re-injuries for me to really take notice of it, but I am finally beginning to take care and pay attention. As a kid, I remember my mom calling me a bit of a bull in a China shop. I’m sure she was right but I couldn’t even conceive of another way to be or how to do anything differently. Rather fascinating that my son should show up and be so completely different in this way, and such a wonderful teacher for his mama.
Recently in my meditations, as well as on my most recent hike up the ledges, I started to wonder how I could bring this notion of slowing down and noticing more in my singing practice. (Well… I haven’t been practicing at all lately, but you know, these things ebb and flow, and I’ve heard a loud calling to do more singing lately.) The words finesse and artistic expression keep coming up. I’ve always had a strong, powerful and clean sound, but I think the strong bull inside hasn’t paid much heed to nuance and the intricacies of communication. Maybe the time has come? The thought of this is pretty invigorating, and actually makes me want to spend time in the practice room. What a pleasant surprise!
As I came to the end of my hike, I gleefully took in all kinds of fun new “noticings”. There was a delightful family of squirrels chirping high in the trees. I stopped to watch for a bit and they all seemed to dance weightlessly in the tip tops of the branches. And for the icing on the cake, as I pulled my bike off the rusty iron gate at the trail’s entrance, I happened upon the sign that clearly states the name of the trail as the Bristol Ledges Trail. Given the recent name change of this blog, I got a good belly laugh out of that one! I know it will take some patience and acceptance to make a habit out of becoming more aware, subtle, and present, but I’m already feeling its effect and loving it.
With so many changes and new adventures in my life these days, a few ripples, well maybe waves, OK even unbridled storms, are bound to come along and throw everything a bit off kilter. Ripples like not knowing where to best direct my focus – aromatherapy homework, reading assignments for my therapeutic music classes, or researching and collecting data for my Arts in Education program. Waves like my husband being out of town for a few weeks thus putting me on temporary single parent duty. And storms like full on, four-year-old, day-long meltdowns… the kind that he recovers from by bedtime, but take me 24 hours to process and clear the smoke from my brain.
I feel like at least some of these challenges are the result of this wild modern life we lead. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty I love about 2016, like the fact that we just bought our first time ever brand new car: a Chevy Volt. I can plug it in for local driving and commuting and when the charge runs out after 50 miles or so it switches over to gas for road trips and such. Seriously, so cool. And I love that I don’t have to own a TV or pay a huge cable bill to be able to watch movies or shows I love. I can just stream them on my computer when I feel like I need a little entertainment fix. One thing I’m not so in love with about my modern life is that my extended family, once tight nit and all in one place, is now strewn throughout the country, even the world, as we all pursue our dreams, also known as our ordinary lives. We Skype, we Facebook, and we even talk on the phone like people used to do in the old days, but its not the same as having your tribe of loved ones within a short driving distance as you raise the next generation.
There are a few things I miss pretty consistently: family dinners with sisters and kiddos and dogs all around, chatting with my mom while we hang around and do nothing or everything, and hikes with my dad. I have my dad to thank for the beginning of an interest in hiking and the great outdoors. In Silicon Valley where I grew up, it didn’t take long to find nature 10 minutes up Magdalena Ave, in the golden hills of Los Altos and Cupertino. My mom always called them “marches” as I think she much preferred to take an easy stroll, but my dad usually had a mission: burn some calories, sweat a bit, and take in a view at the top. In high school, I think he had to drag me up there as I still hadn’t quite embraced a love for nature. I was too busy being cool or at least thinking that’s what I was up to. But college in Boulder, Colorado just cracked the roof off the sucker and I couldn’t get enough of the great outdoors: hiking, camping, skiing, biking. The Rocky Mountains blew my mind and before long it was me dragging Dad up to the top of a trail. It was up on top of a mountain that I stopped trying to be cool and started to wake up, quiet down, and notice all of the amazing things going on around me in nature. Ultimately nature has become a mirror for me to understand myself more and more with every experience.
Today when I was hiking the ledges trail with my husband who’s home for a few days in between trips, I had the notion that I was going to write about acceptance. Accepting where my kiddo is in his development as a human, accepting things about myself that either hold me back or can launch me forward, accepting that my wrist is killing me this week and maybe I shouldn’t be typing much or playing the piano. And all of these things are on my mind, but what came out when my fingers started typing was a bit of nostalgia for family and a simpler time. I guess that’s what nature draws out of me. A longing for peace, for flow, for ease and familiarity. In the quiet of the trees, or even in the chatter with my husband amongst those trees, I felt a release from my day to day existence, and a connection to happy memories in the wilderness. Sounds like a pretty good reason to go hiking every week. Can’t wait to do it again next time and see what comes up.
Hi, my name is Ali Dawson Gibson. I'm a healer, a singer and a teacher. This Blog, 52 Weeks of the Ledges, is from 2016 when I hiked this awesome Bristol Ledges trail once and week and shared my experiences. Enjoy!